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Nick Gordon: Even in Loss, Plenty of Positives for Pitt

Nick Gordon: Even in Loss, Plenty of Positives for Pitt

Pitt lost to the number four team in the country on the road.

In the loss, Pitt out gained Penn State in the passing game, on the ground and almost doubled Penn State in time of possession.

That’s all great, but at the end of the day the only thing that really matters is how many points you put on the board.

Those are the facts, but the facts do not always tell the whole story.

Max Browne’s came under a lot of scrutiny after the game. In the heat of the moment that might have felt warranted but after going back and really watching, may not have been. He certainly was not the reason the Panthers left State College with a loss. Yes, Browne needs to work on his mobility, but like I said before, Browne is not the reason Pitt lost.

Taking five sacks does not help the cause, and neither does throwing two interceptions but there were opportunities for guys to make plays in the passing game and it didn’t happen. Browne has a lot of growing to do, and I do believe Narduzzi has a decision to make moving forward.

First of all, if Ben Dinucci had started this game and the rest of the offense played the way they did today it wouldn’t have made a difference. Max Browne made a few big time throws that were either dropped or sabotaged by timing issues and miscommunication between Browne and his wide receivers.

I’m not saying Browne’s performance alone could have won the game for Pitt, but it certainly did not lose it. The question moving forward is whether Dinucci would be a better fit for the offense. I would guess he will start seeing more reps during practice but I would not expect to see Narduzzi make a change at this point.

To beat any good team, you have to make some big plays. That’s where the panthers struggled. Qadree Ollison was really the only player offensively for Pitt to show any big play ability; breaking off a few big runs with a nice combination of power and elusiveness.

It is really difficult to win when guys are not executing, which is exactly what happened at Penn State on the offensive side of the ball. A lot of this was due to a solid performance by Penn State’s talented secondary. However, the big plays were there for Pitt’s offense, they just were not made.

Pitt showed a lot of positives on Saturday including a very solid performance on the defensive side of the ball.

The defense faced adversity all day as Penn State started every possession with solid field position. Dewayne Hendrix and Keyshon Camp were both impressive. Hendrix has a unique skillset of power and speed and was able to contain Penn State’s Trace McSorley for most of the day. I would be shocked if another team this season holds Penn State under the 312 total yards they gained against Pitt.

The defensive game plan was another aspect of the game that really stood out as a positive. Pitt allowed their CBs to play a lot of man, as they usually do, but also did a good job disguising their coverages–showing man and dropping into zone–especially on a few crucial third downs.

Another interesting strategy was the constant four-man rush with a fifth man, usually Saleem Brightwell, spying McSorley. The defensive line did a really good job finding a balance between getting pressure in the backfield while still remaining under control and not overextending, especially on the edge.

Overall, the defense looked a lot better than they did in the first game of the season. With some players getting healthier and Jordan Whitehead suspended for only one more game, things should continue to improve.

This is a tough loss without a doubt.

No one is okay with losing to Penn State and that was the mood after the game. However, there were plenty of positives to take away from this game and I would imagine Pat Narduzzi liked a lot of what he saw.

Going forward it will be interesting to see what happens with the offense, and although there were some questionable play calls, especially the WR screen which led to a safety, it’s hard to argue with the gameplan.

Pitt needed to keep Penn State’s offense off the field, and they did.

If you told Pat Narduzzi before the game that Pitt would have 38:20 of time of possession I guarantee he would be more than pleased. Not being able to punch the ball in from within the 10 yard line on three different drives and turning the ball over three times is what really killed Pitt.

Moving forward, the team faces another high-powered offense in Oklahoma State. It will be interesting to see if Pitt stays with the same offensive philosophy to avoid a track meet with Mason Rudolph and James Washington next Saturday.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker

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